ACSD Board of Directors approves some personnel changes and staff contracts; May 31 is last day of school for students

by Brianne Eilers

The Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) Board of Directors met a week early for its regular April monthly meeting in order to address budget items that needed to be approved prior to April 15. Two public hearings were held at the opening of the meeting, one regarding the proposed budget for the 2019-2020 school year and the other regarding amending the 2018-2019 budget. There were no written or verbal comments on either item and the public hearings were closed.

Under personnel matters, the board approved staff for after school programming. Ciara Snitker was approved as TLC Instructional Coach/Technology Integrationist. A teaching contract was approved for DJ Scholtes and a Title I/Special Education Teaching Contract was approved for Kendra Vix. Food Service Director Stipends for the 2019-2020 Summer Feeding and Wellness/Food & Fitness Initiative were approved with a 2.95% increase for the 2019-2020 school year.

The board accepted several resignations. Michelle Scott resigned from her positions as high school English teacher, assistant speech advisor and eighth grade volleyball coach. Bob Wasson resigned from his position as ninth grade girls basketball coach. Denise Ward resigned from her paraprofessional position. Jani Promnitz resigned from her position as a fifth grade teacher and Louise Wild resigned from her position as high school student council advisor.

In other personnel matters, the board approved a transfer for Vickie Snitker from Food Service to At-Risk Paraprofessional. The board also terminated the full-time Curriculum Director contract and then hired Gretchen DeVore as FTE Curriculum Director.

In other consent agenda items, an open enrollment into the district was approved and an open enrollment out of the district was approved. Sunday requests for facility usage were approved for youth wrestling for April through May and varsity football for June. The AEA Purchasing Agreement for 2019-2020 was approved.

Summer Feeding Program dates were approved as follows: Monday-Friday from June 3-June 28 and August 5-16. Breakfast and lunch meals will be provided free of charge to children and teens 18 years old and younger. Information and menus will also be sent home with students in May and there will be additional promotion with flyers, newspaper articles and radio advertising.

The board also approved the Fields of Faith event for October 9 of this year from 6:30-8 p.m. The board approved Youth Frontiers retreats for fifth, seventh and 10th grades. The board also approved working with UMB Bank, as they acquisitioned Bankers Trust Company.

During the Communications time of the meeting, Curriculum Director Gretchen DeVore explained to the board how the new state assessment testing works to give the board an idea of the process. This is the first year the ACSD has taken the assessments using computers and DeVore noted that it has “been going okay.” She noted that the tests are no longer timed, but it is recommended that an hour be allotted for the reading, math and science tests each. Two hours are allotted for the language and writing component. She explained that when the students sign into the application, they can’t access other things like Google.

While there have been no major glitches and students have adapted well, scores will not be available until after September 15, which can cause some issues when deciding how to place students in classes. DeVore gave examples of TAG (Talented and Gifted) or identifying what areas students may need interventions in. She noted that there are other assessments to use, and there may be some adjustments made after the start of the 2019-2020 school year. The scores will be used for the district’s school report card. Later in her Curriculum report, DeVore noted that the ISASP has been consuming much of their time.

In the Superintendent’s report, Jay Mathis noted that the district has received a settlement offer to clean and repassivate the stainless steel surfaces professionally in the East Elementary kitchen. He also included information on several legislative items. Board member Scott Melcher asked which legislative items might affect the district the most and Mathis explained that the item that he is most concerned with is the SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision) funding program. He noted that there seems to be support to extend it, but it hasn’t been done yet.

Mathis also noted in his report that he felt the teacher contract negotiations went well and both sides feel good about the new contract negotiated under the new rules.

In his report, Waukon High School Principal Dr. Mike Hardy noted that the house project is moving along. Drywall mudding, taping and texturing have been completed and they are now painting the interior. High school students began taking the Iowa assessment tests (ISASP) April 2. Five high school students will be attending the Iowa Big North Hackathon in Elkader. During this event, students identify problems they would like to solve and work in groups with other students who want to solve the same problem. Through the projects, students work with nonprofits, businesses and government agencies to solve the problems.

Waukon High School Assistant Principal and Activities Director Brian Hilsabeck noted in his report the numbers of students participating in spring activities. He also updated the board on numerous upcoming activities.

In her report, Waukon Middle School Principal Jennifer Garin noted the numbers from parent/teacher conference attendance. She also gave the middle school ISASP schedule and noted when spring FAST testing would be completed for sixth grade students. She also noted the many field trips and other events coming up.

East and West Elementary Principal Joe Griffith noted in his report the numbers from Pre-K and Kindergarten Round-Up. He also commented on the various activities coming up in April and May. He noted that the District Developed Service Delivery Plan is up for review and he hopes to have it on the May agenda for the board to approve.

Buildings and Grounds Director Bill Hennessy noted that some of the contractors for the East Elementary project have been on site and are getting materials ordered and organized. He is continuing to get prices on summer projects. The Fire Marshal visited the buildings in the district. There were some minor issues, but as a whole the Marshal complimented the district and things looked good. Some pipes had to recently be cut and replaced at West Elementary due to small water leaks.

In his Technology report, Director Shawn Gordon noted that the 1:1 laptops have been ordered. The online Iowa assessment testing has gone well. The new sound system in the auditorium is installed.

In her Food Service report, Director Julie Magner noted that March was a busy month. The Allamakee County Cattlemen will be grilling burgers April 11 for lunch. Muffins with Mom is April 12.

Transportation Director Andrew Eberling noted that the new buses arrived in the middle of March. There was some stress with the gravel roads being in bad condition, but Eberling noted that the County “did a great job” putting gravel down where it was needed. He also thanked the drivers for being understanding of the circumstances and working through them without complaints when the roads were less than ideal.

Under new business, the board approved 2019-2020 budget and tax levies. The tax rate came in at 9.79998, which is higher than the 2018-2019 year, but less than many of the previous years. Mathis noted that he looked at rates among Iowa’s 346 school districts and ACSD is among the 22 lowest rates.

The board also approved amending the 2018-2019 budget.

Via telephone, the board spoke with Travis Squires of Piper Jaffray regarding the consideration of financing proposal and review by superintendent of schools, board secretary and financial advisor. Squires discussed some of the institutions that bid, but the board ultimately decided to go with semi-local Luana Savings Bank. Squires did point out that Waukon State Bank did compete for bidding, but that the lending capacity was not enough for the $5,000,000 bond. He suggested to the board that they consider negotiating with them for possible investment of some of the funds. A resolution directing the sale of $5,000,000 school infrastructure sales, service and use tax revenue bonds, series 2019 was passed, with the sale to Luana Savings Bank. The roll call vote was all “ayes”.

The board approved the music department’s bi-annual trip to New York City, with the stipulation that they wait until the second week in June. Originally, the plan was to have the trip take place between June 1 and June 5.

The board then approved Impact7G as the asbestos consultant for the East Elementary project, and approved Advanced Environmental as the company that would do the removal work.

Discussion then turned to summer projects. One of the proposed projects would be to put a storage shed up somewhere around the East Elementary building. Mathis discussed possible sizes of the shed as well as locations. It was noted that East Elementary does not currently have any really good snow removal equipment, and it would be prudent to have a place to store equipment on the grounds, instead of having to borrow from other facilities. After discussion on convenient locations on the East Elementary grounds or the former AEA area which had been located across the street to the west, the board members decided they would be more comfortable looking at the suggested sites before committing to a location and a size.

The board also discussed replacement of windows in the Middle School, but it was decided that they would wait and see if it might be feasible to put air conditioning in at the Middle School. That could make a difference on what type of windows the district would put in. The board did approve a bid from Kelly Concrete in the amount of $15,218 for tearing out and replacing several areas of concrete at East Elementary, West Elementary and the high school.

The board then approved joint sharing agreements for the following positions: Transportation Director-Eastern Allamakee, Building and Grounds Director-Eastern Allamakee, and Human Resources Director-Postville. The board approved a contract settlement with the Allamakee Community Education Association. Mathis noted that this is the first contract negotiated under the new rules and guidelines. He also stated that they had seen a big jump in insurance premiums and tried be fair in the process. He also noted that there were some topics that have been used to bargain in the past that are now illegal to bargain with. He felt that both sides worked with each other well in the process. “Next to our students, our most valuable asset is our staff and the work they do with our students,” Mathis said. He noted that they tried to preserve as much of the language as possible in the new contract.

Board member Patty Nordheim commended Mathis on his willingness to collaborate with the Education Association. The board approved the teacher handbook, and also approved salaries for support staff, department heads and administrative staff. The board then approved the issuance of contracts to staff.

The last day of school for students was set for Friday, May 31, and the additional student days and additional hours for seniors were waived. The board approved a Teacher Contract Days make-up plan which would allow staff to choose from teacher training opportunities to complete online, on their own time. They would provide the principal of their building with evidence that the training was completed. The 2019 graduate list was approved. The board also approved a revised Teacher Leadership Compensation plan. The plan was revised to try and help increase the percentage of teachers in leadership roles. There would be a $5,000 each stipend per year for instructional coaches and a $2,000 each stipend per year for Teacher Leaders.

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